kethni: (Matt/Mo)
[personal profile] kethni

Name: Blood Red – Part Two
Pairing: Matt/Mohinder
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Character Death, Violence, Cannibalism, Borderline Bestiality – kinda.
Note: boudecia7 asked for a Snow White and The Huntsman style story. I actually started this before either boudecia7 or I saw the movie so it’s more inspired by the tone than the specifics of the story.
Back to Part One

The dawn creeps up like a thief. Mohinder is used to the sound of the dawn chorus, used to the sounds of it drifting through the tower window as he sleeps. He isn’t woken by it now but instead slumbers on in the shadow of a huge oak tree.

A small foot kicks a toe against the crossbow lying next to him.

‘He’s far too richly dressed to be a hunter or a bounty hunter,’ Bob says.

‘He’s yummy, can we keep him?’ Elle says, winding a lock of hair around her finger. ‘When he stops being pretty we can always eat him.’

Bob leans down and peers at the sleeping young man. ‘He’s all sinew. There’s hardly any meat on him.’

‘Please, Daddy? Please? I’ll feed him and clean him and love him. Please?’

‘We’ll have to discuss it with the others.’

‘Oh goody!’

The morning creeps around the palace as if uneasy and uncertain of its welcome. Cautious sunlight slips under curtains and doors while shadows retreat to safer places.

In his room that has been most grudgingly assigned Prince Peter shifts uncomfortably. Seeing the first rays of light appearing he abandons the uncomfortable bed and rises.

‘How did you sleep, Peter?’

Peter spins around, grabbing for his sword. ‘Where did you come from?’ he demands.

‘This is my palace,’ Sylar says with a slow smile. ‘How did you sleep?’

Peter tugs down the edge of his nightshirt and tightens his grip on the sword. ‘Remarkably ill. Your hospitality has declined since the halcyon days of this being King Chandra’s palace.’

‘Perhaps his guests had the courtesy to inform him that they were arriving and didn’t commit petty acts of vandalism.’

‘Rescuing someone imprisoned is hardly vandalism!’

Sylar skirts by Peter and lifts up the mattress. ‘There’s the problem,’ he says, fishing something out. ‘A pea.’

Peter almost drops the sword. ‘A pea! You dare try that old hag’s test on me? I’m no princess who needs her virtue intact.’

Sylar rolls the pea between his fingers. ‘The test can be for anything. The incantation determines that. This one, Prince Peter, was to determine if you would make an appropriate blood sacrifice.’ He smiles widely. ‘You passed. How fortunate.’

Peter darts forward, slashing wildly with the sword. A desperate stroke pierces Sylar’s stomach but he merely smiles.

‘It’s better not to struggle. You don’t want to die… anguished.’

Peter tugs at the sword for a moment before abandoning and fleeing into the corridor. He crashes past the maids and the footmen, swings wildly at the skittering guards, and crashes out into the courtyard.

‘Get him!’ Sylar screams, his voice echoing through the palace. ‘Get him!’

The drawbridge is slowly dropping as Peter fights the emerging guards. If he can get across to the drawbridge perhaps he can reach the village and find a horse. Sylar’s transformed creatures cannot ride for no horse will bear them. On foot he might outrun them…

The drawbridge drops and Peter flees, only to crash into the huntsman coming in. In the moments that it takes them to disengage the guards are upon them. Peter’s dagger flashes as he whirls, frantically slashing and stabbing as the guards close in.

Matt hacks and slices a route out of the melee. The smell of blood in his nostrils is maddening and the tang of viscera raises his hackles. The guards are attacking mindlessly; striking at each other and Matt as much as at Peter. Matt stumbles out of the fight to find his cloak shredded and his tunic slashed to the skin.

‘Enough!’ Sylar bellows, stalking into the courtyard.

The knot of guards widen out, leaving Peter, bleeding and exhausted inside a ring of steel.

‘Did you finish the prince?’ Sylar asks, turning to Matt. ‘Give me his heart.’

Matt reaches into his tunic, but the pocket has been slashed open.

‘Give me the heart!’ Sylar insists.

There is a scrabble among the guards and one of them reaches down.

‘You’re a monster,’ Peter whispers. ‘You’re a monster and you’ll never get away with this.’

Sylar rolls his eyes. ‘Why are you heroic types always so unimaginative? I’ve been regent here for ten years and I’ll be regent here as long as I choose. In short, Prince Peter, I will get away with this and anything else.’

‘If you kill me then it’ll be war!’

Sylar struts over to him. ‘I was prepared to allow you to live but events have left me in need of a sacrifice and such natural humans who remain here are either not qualified or too valuable.’ He snaps his fingers and the dagger flies from Peter’s hand. ‘Your only value to me is in dying.’

‘My mother…’

‘Your mother will doubtless be heartbroken when she finds out that you left here safe and well only to be killed by brigands, or slavers, or perhaps even a band of roving cannibals.’ He shrugs. ‘I haven’t decided yet but rest assured it will be tragic.’ Sylar waves his hand. ‘Take the prince to the dungeons and prepare him.’

Peter is dragged away, struggling and shouting. Sylar straightens his sleeves, and then a couple of the guards stumble forward with something clutched in their hands.

‘What’s that?’ Sylar demands.

Matt puts his head back and howls.

The guards open their hands and Sylar stares at the battered stag heart, cut from Matt’s tunic by an opportunistic blade.

The air grows still and quiet. The sunlight takes on a thin, stretched quality as if about to snap. To Peter it seems as if Sylar has grown larger and that the guards have shrunk.

Sylar turns to Matt. ‘This is Prince Mohinder’s heart?’ he asks quietly.

Matt cringes back but nods once.

Sylar grabs the shattered heart. ‘This is what you bring me? I tell you to bring the heart still beating and you bring me this?’

Matt squares his shoulders and gestures at the guards, who chitter and skitter in panic.

‘This is useless!’ Sylar hurls it at the guards. ‘Idiots! Do you have any idea what you have done?’

The sky darkens as Sylar draws himself up, summoning all his magic, and focuses on the creatures in front of him.

‘That I should be undone by such a miserable collection of petty life is abhorrent to me.’ He points his finger at the group and smiles viciously. ‘I gave you humanity and you have squandered it. What I gave I will take away.’

Thunder crashes, lightening flashes, and in the courtyard with Sylar there are dozens of black beetles. And one wolf.

Sylar steps forward deliberately, crushing several beetles underfoot. The others skitter away and the wolf flees out across the drawbridge.

Mohinder wakes and, for a moment, expects to be in the tower with its faint smell of cooking, soap, and earth. He expects to see the stone ceiling above his head and hear Matt coming up the steps.


Mohinder squeezes his eyes shut until the tears cease threatening to fall.

When he opens his eyes again he realises that the ceiling is not the stone of the tower or even of the palace, but cheap thatch.

Mohinder pulls himself up on his elbows. He’s lying on a pile of dirty straw in the corner of a wretched hovel.

‘Good morning,’ singsongs a female voice.

Mohinder blinks at the figure in front of him, and then again. ‘Are you a dwarf?’

‘Are you a giant?’

Mohinder sits up carefully and looks around. There are seven dwarves in total, almost all watching him carefully. ‘I went to sleep in the forest.’

‘We captured you,’ the blonde says triumphantly.

‘You’ve kidnapped me, apparently,’ Mohinder says sharply. ‘Capturing me is an entirely different affair.’

She produces an axe and waves it at him. ‘Don’t talk back!’

‘My daughter meets few of… your kind,’ a bald-headed dwarf says.

‘Bharat is full of humans and has very few dwarves,’ Mohinder points out. ‘Who are you people?’

‘My name is Bob,’ the bald dwarf says. ‘My daughter’s name is Elle, however you will address each of us as sir or madam as appropriate.’

Mohinder raises his eyebrows. ‘Why would I do that?’

‘You are our slave now,’ Bob says mildly.

‘Is that so? Yet slavery is illegal.’

Another dwarf, this one young than Bob, but with a long and matted beard, growls. ‘You’re not in Bharat anymore.’

Mohinder folds his arms across his chest. ‘Slavery is illegal in every kingdom from Bharat to Dawney.’

‘We follow the old ways,’ Bob says.

Mohinder rolls his eyes and stands up, careful not to bump his head on the low ceiling. ‘You can’t simply abduct me in my sleep and call me a slave. Even if you follow the old traditions you have to defeat me first.’

Each of the dwarves produces a small but heavy axe.

‘One of you,’ Mohinder says wearily. ‘If we must go through this charade then it can only be one.’

‘There are seven of us and only one of you. We are armed and you are not,’ observes a bespectacled dwarf, ‘so there is no need for us to… indulge this whim of yours.’

‘I will be no one’s slave.’ Mohinder holds up his hands. ‘Kill me or let me go.’

The bespectacled dwarf shrugs and weighs the axe lightly in his hands. ‘There’s no need to be melodramatic, we can also injure you.’

Heads turn as claws scrabble by the door.

‘Let’s not be hasty,’ remarks a blond haired, blue-eyed dwarf, eying the door warily. ‘Perhaps we can reach an accommodation.’

The sound of a wolf’s howl rises eerily. In the sudden, anxious silence Mohinder pushes past the dwarves and reaches for the door.

‘You’re not allowed to leave!’ Elle insists, rushing forward.

‘I really shouldn’t open the door,’ the blond says.

Mohinder snorts. ‘I suggest the next person you abduct has more to live for.’ He yanks open the door, and finds himself to face with a wolf.

Mohinder freezes, barely aware of anything but the huge shape of the wolf as it fastens its jaws lightly around his wrist and tugs him gently outside. Behind him the dwarves scramble to lock the door and then to rush to the windows but all Mohinder sees is the massive head that could surely rip off his hand with the smallest amount of pressure.

The wolf pulls Mohinder a little further away from the hovel, then releases his arm and cringes back.

‘Ow,’ Mohinder says automatically, cradling his wrist. ‘Oh,’ he says, realising that although there are fading red indentations in his skin from the pressure of the wolf’s teeth it hasn’t broken the skin.

The door to the hovel creaks open and the wolf growls quietly, a low, sustained sound that makes Mohinder shiver, though he is not the focus. The blond dwarf is stood in the hovel doorway, awkwardly holding Mohinder’s crossbow which is almost his height.

‘Pax, I beg you, I have only brought you your ridiculously large contraption.’

‘Too late for me to use if the wolf had meant me harm,’ Mohinder says sourly.

‘If he meant you harm he’d have killed you in the cottage and carried off your body.’ He lays the crossbow down. ‘They’re not wasteful creatures and once they’ve eaten a couple of dwarves or humans they don’t tend to worry too much about groups.’

‘How very reassuring you are.’

The dwarf edges closer a few steps but the wolf’s hackles rise and it growls again more loudly.

‘I see he doesn’t much like me,’ the dwarf says, holding up his hands.

‘Why are you still out here then?’ Mohinder asks tartly. ‘Clearly it isn’t for my benefit.’

The dwarf shrugs. ‘I was never in favour of the slavery wheeze, that was Bob and Bennet, they still have certain issues with humans.’

The wolf moves a little closer to Mohinder and he realises that it has a faint, not-unpleasant, animal odour.

‘The war was generations ago,’ Mohinder says.

‘Your generations, not ours, both Bob and Bennet fought in the war. Even so.’

‘Even so, what?’

The dwarf shrugs. ‘We’re miners. After fourteen hours in the mine it would be exceedingly pleasant to come home to an open fire, a warm bath, and a meal cooking.’

Mohinder rolls his eyes. ‘You want wives, not a slave.’

‘Dwarf women mine, they don’t wait on their husbands. Not that one would have to be a slave to keep house in exchange for food and lodgings and other necessities.’

The wolf sits on his haunches and Mohinder realises that its head is almost at his shoulder.

‘Perhaps next time you might try that before you attempt to enslave your prospective housekeeper,’ Mohinder says tartly.

‘That’s a neat trick taming the wolf,’ the dwarf says diffidently. ‘Nobody knowing you have him would dare attempt to treat you ill.’

‘It’s not… I don’t…’ Mohinder sets his shoulders. ‘It’s not tame and it’s not mine.’

The wolf yips and nips Mohinder’s fingers very gently and he finds himself tentatively scratching its head.

‘I shouldn’t tell the others that, dear boy, best to let them be anxious of any possible consequences to mistreating you.’ He scratches his nose. ‘We got off on the wrong foot but we could help each other.’

‘Why should I want to help some nameless dwarf when he and his friends attempted to enslave me?’

‘To the first charge my name is Adam,’ he says with a bow. ‘To the second, well, you’ve got nothing but pennies, no food, and nowhere to sleep. Your clothes are expensive as are your boots although your crossbow looks extremely well used. So you’re running away from something, or someone, and in such a great tearing hurry that you didn’t fill your purse which, despite your expression, we didn’t steal. We’re not thieves-’

Mohinder snorts. ‘Except of people.’

‘--and neither are you, or if you are then you’re a remarkably poor one,’ Adam says. ‘There’s little work in these parts beyond mining and there are no humans at all. Can you cook?’

‘Simple dishes,’ Mohinder allows.

‘We’re simple people.’ Adam gives his most charming smile. ‘We couldn’t even successfully enslave you and we had all night to do it.’

‘No thank you,’ Mohinder says firmly. ‘Who knows how much more successful you might be if given enough time?’

Adam sighs. ‘I don’t blame you, though I wish you would think again.’ He bows low. ‘I wish you both well. Don’t forget your crossbow.’

The door to the hovel creaks shut. Mohinder sighs and walks over to pick up the crossbow.

‘Are you sure you’re a wolf?’ he asks as it lopes along next to him. ‘Shouldn’t you be with your pack?’ He touches the long, thick fur at the nape of its neck. ‘It’s probably not safe for you being so friendly to humans. We’re far crueller than animals and less loyal.’

The wolf nibbles gently at his fingers once more.

Though the day is early the drapes of the great hall shroud the windows and the room is lit by dozens of flickering candles. Sylar carefully chalks a series of intersecting circles on the floor and then sprinkles incense over the floor. After washing his hands he gestures to the waiting guards.

‘Bring Prince Peter. It’s time for him to earn his board and keep.’ Sylar slips into a heavy, intricately detailed robe, and examines a series of knives.

The new mirror is held by four stout new guards freshly bought from the village. There was protest of course at the loss of good livestock, but that quietened soon enough. Ripping out hearts had that effect.

The guards are shifting awkwardly, still struggling to balance on two legs in their new bodies, but they’ve been well fed and they’re surprisingly quick to adapt. Perhaps he should have more bred and replace all the useless beetles with them, though the wolf would’ve driven them to hysteria.

Sylar frowns at his image in the ornate mirror. The wolf had been unfortunate. Regrettable, even. It was capable, loyal, and reliably vicious when needed. That it had run away immediately showed remarkable intelligence, for at that moment Sylar would have happily killed anyone or anything within reach. The loss of Mohinder’s heart is crippling but the destruction of his mirror is near catastrophic. He holds that prancing child Peter responsible for both and it seems fitting that he set at least one matter to rights.

Peter is dragged into the room. He is naked but for the heavy manacles on his wrists and ankles, and the muzzle gag. His furious protests are incomprehensible and Sylar hums quietly as Peter is strapped to a stand in front of the mirror, facing away.

‘People seek power in many places,’ Sylar says, picking up a knife, ‘but power is useless without the will to wield it. An army is nothing if you’re cowardly to strike a blow. Magic is meaningless if you’re afraid of the consequences. Every rite and ritual in the world won’t help you if you fear for your soul.’ He smiles widely. ‘Not that your soul will be a problem for you for much longer.’

Peter feels the razor sharp edge of the knife touch his throat and fights the urge to shake his head.

‘Before you die I’d like you to know that you brought this on yourself. Whatever childish passion for “heroism” drove you to break my mirror has brought you to this pass. This, Prince Peter, is what happens to Heroes.’

The knife slips along Peter’s skin, so sharp that as it slits his throat he feels nothing but the sudden warmth of his own blood spilling down. Then Sylar picks up a second knife; this one with a long narrow blade and a heavy wooden handle. As Peter gurgles helplessly he plunges the knife into Peter’s chest, ramming it through the younger man’s rib cage and out through his back where it passes into the depths of the mirror without crack or split.

The light dies in Peter’s eyes. Sylar takes a third knife, a small carving knife, and cuts out Peter’s heart. He devours the heart, feeling the life and energy flow into him, and then licks his hands clean. He pulls the knife free from Peter’s body and then unchains it, letting it drop to the floor like so much discarded offal.

Peter glares at him from the mirror.

Mohinder’s stomach grumbles loudly.

‘Perhaps I should have let them feed me before I spurned their employ,’ he says wryly.

The wolf grips his sleeve and pulls him over to a bush.

‘Wonderful, I escaped slavery by dwarf and now a wolf is dragging me about like a rag doll.’

The wolf crouches down, drawing back its lips and ears, and droops its tail between its legs. Mohinder takes a step back and holds up his hands.

‘I’m sorry! Please don’t be upset.’ He crouches down and stretches out his palm. ‘I’m not angry, truly.’

The wolf crawls forward and tentatively licks Mohinder’s hand. Mohinder scratches its chin gently and then reaches around to scratch behind its ears.

‘Thank you for getting me away from the dwarves. I might have been in some distress if you hadn’t.’ Mohinder sighs and catches the wolf’s face in his hands and stares onto the dark, sad eyes. ‘It is you, Matt, isn’t it?’

Matt whines softly and lowers his gaze.

‘I’m so sorry. I’ll find some way to turn you back, I promise.’ He kisses Matt on the top of his head. ‘If I make a fire do you think you could find us something to eat?’

Matt sniffs the air for a moment, and then suddenly bolts away at speed.

‘I hope that’s agreement and not a coincidence,’ Mohinder says sighing.

‘I won’t help you,’ Peter says.

Sylar smiles and taps his fingers on the edge of the mirror. ‘Rituals and rites are useless without will, but that doesn’t mean the forms don’t matter. I didn’t have you chained and gagged before I killed you simply for sadistic pleasure. You’ll answer any questions I ask and you’ll answer honestly.’

‘Let me out!’

‘That would just be wasteful. A body can live without a soul well enough.’ Sylar twirls in demonstration. ‘Yet a soul without a body is a very sorry thing indeed. Should the mirror break, Peter, that will be the end of you.’ He steps back and admires his new magic mirror before waving a hand at the guards holding it. ‘Take it to my chambers and put it on the wall.’ He taps the body with his foot. ‘And dispose of this.’

Mohinder has a small fire burning when Matt trots up with a dead chicken in his jaws.

‘Is there an angry farmer following you?’ Mohinder asks lightly.

Matt places it at his feet and comes to sit by Mohinder, putting his head on Mohinder’s lap.

‘We’ll need some water,’ Mohinder says, taking out his pocket knife and slitting the chicken’s throat. ‘I really don’t know what we’re going to do but every kingdom has sorcerers. As long as we’re together I’ll be happy. We’ll find someone to turn you back to human one way or another.’ He tips the chicken up to allow the blood to drain off and begins plucking it.

Mohinder has never given much thought to his future. With Sylar ruling the kingdom it seemed unlikely that he had one much worse worrying about. He had his daydreams of course, and Matt had always figured in them, first as caregiver and of late… Mohinder looks down at the head resting on his knee. A bitter joke on them by the universe. If Matt were in human form, how different things might be.

Matt looks up when Mohinder sighs, and nuzzles his cheek. If only Mohinder didn’t see the same eyes when he looks into Matt’s face; they’re too intelligent and too aware for Matt to be written off as a bright animal. He understands too much of Mohinder’s speech for the comforting delusion that he no longer has human understanding and comprehension.

Matt growls suddenly, and stands up. Mohinder follows the wolf’s gaze and his heart sinks at the sight of a hugely fat dwarf that he saw but did not speak to at the hovel.

‘What do you want?’ Mohinder demands.

The dwarf puts his hands on his knees and bends forward, gasping for air as he tries to regain his breath. ‘I was about… about to grab that chicken when… when your mutt made off with it,’ he wheezes. ‘Do you know how rare it is for one to be loose from the farm?’

Mohinder purses his lips. ‘He’s not a “mutt”, he’s a wolf. He’s his own. Do you mean to say that you’re complaining that you tried to steal the bird but he beat you to it?’

The dwarf straightens up but clutches his chest. ‘It’s common… common ground.’

‘Then he has as much right to it as you have.’ Mohinder returns to plucking the chicken. ‘Unless you should like to fight him for it?’

The dwarf makes an alarming creaking noise and falls backwards.

‘Do you think he’s alright?’

Matt trots over to and sniffs at the fallen dwarf. Then he lifts his head and howls. The sound rolls around the woods, causing a flight of birds to panic into the air and two deer to bolt. Matt races after them and Mohinder shivers at the faint echo of a response from a distant pack of wolves.

He loads a bolt into the crossbow and lays it cautiously down on the grass next to him. In truth, he’s never used any weapon, save a spear thrown at fruit, and he wouldn’t trust himself to hit the side of the castle with the crossbow. Still, he feels a little better for it being there. He has more faith in Matt, but if he was attacked by a pack of desperate, starving wolves… But why should they risk attacking him when the dead dwarf is lay undefended nearby?

Mohinder sighs as he finishes unplucking the chicken. Though he has no reason to care for the dwarf he can hardly leave his body lying there to be mauled by any passing animals. Mohinder fashions a spit for the chicken and leaves it roasting while he goes to check the corpse. He’s never seen a dead body before, not of a thinking creature. The hairs prickle on his skin and his gorge rises as if his living flesh is distressed at the simple reminder of its own mortality.

Mohinder takes the hands, shuddering at the cold, clammy skin, but the body is too heavy for him to lift.

Matt reappears as Mohinder is washing his hands in a nearby pond. ‘I should have known you wouldn’t miss your chance for roast chicken,’ he says. He means for his voice to be lightly teasing but it seems to shake even in his own estimation. He sits down with his back to the pond and dries his hands on his tunic before reaches across to scratch the back of Matt’s neck. ‘Did you catch a deer? You have made a terrible state of your fur.’ Mohinder fusses, pulling out twigs and leaves. ‘We need to find a way for me to understand you. It’s very unfair that you understand me and I have to guess at your meaning. When I find someone to make you human again I’ll make sure they give you a voice, and then if you still won’t talk to me I’ll jump up and down on your foot until you do.’

Matt makes a grumbling sort of sound and gently nips Mohinder’s fingers.


Mohinder freezes, staring at Matt. ‘Did you… was that…?’

‘Mohinder, turn around!’

Matt sips under Mohinder’s arm and sniffs at the water. Mohinder turns cautiously and peers across the pond and finally down at the water.

Peter’s ghostly image wavers in the water.

‘Peter? What…’ Mohinder dips his fingers into the water and watches it ripple but without distorting Peter’s image. ‘Why are… what’s going on?’

‘Sylar killed me and trapped my soul in a mirror.’

Mohinder opens and closes his mouth. ‘Are you… can we get you out?’

‘Mohinder, listen to me: he killed me. He cut me up and… and ate my heart so he’d get my strength and life.’

‘Oh my… what can we do?’

‘Nothing, the only way I’ll be freed is to break the mirror. Mohinder, listen, the reason he has me trapped in here is to use me as a spy. I’m under a compulsion, if he asks me a question I have to tell him the truth. If he asks me about you or something that will reveal that you’re still alive then I’ll have to tell him.’

Mohinder sits back on his haunches. ‘He doesn’t know already? Why did he turn Matt into a wolf?’

‘He wanted to eat your heart,’ Peter says, his voice rich with disgust. ‘I don’t know what your huntsman brought, if it was animal or human, but there was a fight as I was trying to escape and it was damaged too badly. Sylar had a fit of pique. He turned a lot of guards and the huntsman back into their real forms.’



Mohinder pets Matt. ‘Their original forms, not their real forms. Once they’ve been human for a while they become more and more human. Matt’s more than a wolf.’

‘Does that matter at this moment? The man is vain as Narcissus and sooner or later he will want the reassurance of his own beauty and I will be compelled to admit that you live.’

‘How do you know?’

‘The power of the mirror is to see everything that may be reflected. I see anyone before a mirror or by a river or even the shine on a copper. Sylar has his magical books before a huge mirror so that I might see all the spells and advise him best,’ Peter says bitterly.

‘Can you not use the knowledge to free yourself?’ Mohinder asks gently.

‘Not in any direct fashion. It took all my art to find a way to speak to you. He blames me for the destruction of his magic mirror, the one that held his soul, and so he punishes me though it was not my doing.’

‘Whose fault was it?’


‘What?’ Mohinder demands. ‘I never saw such a thing.’

Peter shrugs. ‘Yet you broke it. True love can break curses but also overrides other, subtler, spells. You have some natural gift for magic and your will is strong.’

Mohinder rubs his fingers through his hair. ‘My will was to break his mirror? I never heard of it before.’

‘Your will altered one of his spells. Your love and your will made some fundamental alteration and that caused the mirror to shatter.’

Mohinder sets his shoulders. ‘How can I defeat him?’

‘It’s too dangerous, Mohinder, he has an army and guards as well as his magic.’

‘I won’t run forever, I refuse.’

Peter sighs again. ‘You would have to smash the soul stone that he keeps in his chamber. It tricks his body into living though his soul is gone. Then you could kill him; if not he will continue living whatever violence is visited upon him.’

‘And making Matt human, can you find someone who can do that?’

Peter nods over his shoulder distractedly. ‘He’s been human already far longer than he was a wolf. You’re already… Mohinder I must go, remember to avoid mirrors!’

‘Peter wait…’

Mohinder slaps the water with his hand as Peter’s image disappears. ‘What use is that? I swear magical creatures are incapable of simple answers.’ He stands up and walks back to the chicken which is still roasting on the spit. ‘I never spoke to a soul before,’ he says looking down at Matt. ‘Not directly. I should have asked something more meaningful.’

Matt makes a soft noise and rubs against Mohinder’s leg.

‘Not without hope for you, though poor Peter in truth lies dead.’ Mohinder sighs and turns the chicken on the spit. ‘Perhaps I should have gone with him, but I don’t love him. I hardly know him. Knew him. Perhaps he should have come with us. He was foolish to stay. It was foolish to think a creature like Sylar would let fear of consequences prevent him from bloody murder.’

‘Magic mirror on the wall, how may I prevent other kingdoms from invading?’ Sylar taps his foot on the floor as he speaks.

‘If they believe King Chandra hale they would not,’ Peter says eventually. ‘You could take his form and present yourself as he.’

Sylar chuckles. ‘Masterly, but the man is old and can hardly be seen to live forever.’

‘He could proclaim his husband regent or…’ Peter struggles to prevent the words escaping.

‘Or what?’

‘Or announce that Prince Mohinder is dead and adopt some child as heir. When the child is of age announce Chandra’s death.’

Sylar smiles slowly. ‘Then slay the child and rule in its stead.’


‘Which would be the safest for the kingdom?’

‘I cannot tell.’

Sylar rolls his eyes. ‘You remain as pathetic now as you when you were alive.’

‘Then release me,’ Peter snaps. ‘If I am so little value you should let me go.’

‘What? When you are truly useful for the first time in your miserable existence? That would be too cruel a trick. Have no fear, Peter, I mean for you to be useful for many, many years to come.’

Chicken eaten and bones buried, Mohinder once more regards the dead dwarf.

‘It’s an unpleasant thought I might one day be so disposed. That the frame and form which acts as house and home to my mind and soul surely deserves better than to be so cast aside.’ He looks down at Matt. ‘Perhaps you’d eat my body and crunch up my bones.’

Matt whines, puts his face to the ground, and covers his eyes with his paws. Then he sits up and sniffs the air.

‘We’re not about to be attacked are we?’

Matt stands up, growling lightly. A few moments later two of the dwarves from the hovel climb up the hill. These are two of the youngest, a female with short dark hair and a dark haired male. The female stops suddenly as soon as she sees them but the boy wanders on a few steps before staring in horrified fascination at Matt.


‘Good afternoon,’ the female dwarf says calmly. ‘What have you done to Doyle?’

‘Not a thing. He came running up the hill, breathed heavily at something or nothing, and then fell over.’

‘Did he faint?’

‘I fear it was his heart,’ Mohinder says. ‘Please feel free to examine the body. You’ll find neither injury inflicted by hand nor wound by weapon.’ He walks away from the corpse and Matt trots after him.

She walks over, pushing the boy ahead of her. ‘How do you control your wolf?’

‘I ask him.’

‘You don’t ask dogs,’ the boys, sidling over to Doyle’s body. ‘You order dogs.’

‘He’s a wolf, not a dog,’ Mohinder says firmly. ‘It’s very different.’

‘Does he bite?’ the girl asks, watching Matt cautiously.

‘I don’t know,’ Mohinder admits. ‘I suppose he might but he hasn’t yet. He isn’t growling so you’re probably in no danger.’ He backs away from Doyle’s body and Matt trots along with him.

‘Thank you.’ She checks the corpse as the boy hangs back. ‘This is unfortunate.’

‘I thought to bring his body to your… cottage but he was too heavy for me.’

She stands and brushes a lock of hair behind her ear. ‘For us as well.’ She turns to the boy. ‘Luke, run back to the cottage and tell the elders what’s happened.’

‘Eden!’ he whines. ‘I can’t leave you alone with him, what if the wolf attacks you?’

Eden looks at Mohinder thoughtfully and then back at Luke. ‘Then you best run hadn’t you?’

‘We just had some chicken,’ Mohinder said. ‘I don’t think we need resort to eating dwarfs just yet.’

Eden smiles as Luke stomps away. ‘Humans are rare in this kingdom. Bob and Noah talk about your kind as if you were some kind of monster.’

‘I was sleeping, minding myself and nothing else, when your kith kidnapped me and tried to enslave me.’

She shrugs easily. ‘You take that too much to heart. There’s no malice meant. Do you have any chicken left?’

‘Matt had all I didn’t eat,’ Mohinder says, smiling despite himself.

Eden stands up, brushes herself down, and steps away from the body. ‘You gave him a name?’

Mohinder looks down at him. ‘Someone did. But not I. He gives no sign of disliking it.’

‘Well, I know his name and you know my name. Might I know yours?’

‘It’s Mohinder,’ he says with a bow. ‘In my kingdom we take kidnap very seriously.’

Eden laughs lightly. ‘That’s because you all die children. I’m likely twice your age and still the youngest of my kith. If you lived longer you’d learn to take life with more equanimity. What does your name mean?’

‘Great Rain, Thunder God,’ Mohinder says with a shrug. ‘His means “Gift of God”.’

‘He’s well named but you don’t strike me as a god of rain or thunder,’ she says. ‘Who’re you running from?’

‘Why should I tell you?’

Eden shrugs and walks over to them. She holds out her hand for Matt to sniff. ‘Because I’m curious to know the answer and although your pique has taken you this far it must be obvious that if you travel on you will struggle for necessities. This land is dwarven and most dwarves well remember the war.’

‘We’ll manage.’

‘And if you are followed every villager that saw you, every hunter, every miner, and every child will remember which way you passed for they will have taken note of a human suddenly in their midst.’

Mohinder drops his shoulders and leans down to fuss with Matt. ‘I had no intention of coming into this land. You people brought me here.’

‘Do you find complaining changes the truth of reality?’ Eden asks tartly.

‘Not to date but I live in hope,’ he retorts.

Matt sniffs the air and his hackles rise as he stands. Mohinder follows his gaze upward to where a murder of crows is assembling.

Eden draws her axe and weighs it in her hand.

‘What’re you doing?’

‘They want to eat his body,’ she says keeping her eyes on the birds. ‘We bury our dead in a disused mine shaft as an offering to Hathar. His body has to be whole!’

Mohinder loads a bolt into the crossbow. ‘I’m not good with this,’ he admits, ‘but I’ll assist.’

Matt gallops to the body and stands growling up at the crows as Mohinder and Eden take position.

The air fills with the calling of the crows as the sky grows black. Giant wings, glossy and shining jostle with sharp, shining beaks, and black beady eyes stare down at them. With a sudden swoop the birds dive down as one creature.

Mohinder fires the crossbow and the bolt rips through a dozen birds, shedding feathers, blood, and tiny bones everywhere. Yet before he can load the bow again the crows are upon them. Eden whirls, and every bird coming close to the heavy blade is crushed immediately, the bodies falling about her like black snow. Mohinder has dropped his crossbow and instead lays about him with his sword, the blade chopping through bodies like chaff. Matt jumps and snaps at the panicking, screaming birds, hurling aside the broken bodies.

Just as the cloud of crows seems at its thickest and all three of them are struggling to fight off the cruel claws and sharp beaks, there comes a battle cry from over the hill and the other dwarves arrive.

Mohinder is still slashing wildly with the sword when Matt fastens his jaw on his tunic and pulls him from the fray. The crows are abandoning the field and four of the dwarves jog off holding Doyle. Matt snaps half-heartedly at Eden as she touches his head.

‘You’re both bleeding,’ she says mildly. ‘If you’re determined to risk your life by running off with streaming wounds at least make sure that he’s not badly injured.’

Mohinder flinches as he registers the blood matting on the nape of Matt’s neck. ‘Very well.’

Matt looks up with a surprised yip but follows Mohinder along with Eden.

Beyond the Black Woods and the Knife Edge mountains, across the Frozen Lake lies a mountain and at the pinnacle of the mountain is the castle of Peter’s family. In the courtyard massed troops in shining armour are drilling with chilling efficiency. Above them Queen Angela watches from a balcony with an impassive face but her fingers are clawing the stone parapet.

‘Are you completely heartless?’ Nathan demands.

‘You said yourself that some part of Peter remains,’ she says tightly. ‘Would you have me mourn a son who still lives?’

‘His body lies rotting in Bharat castle and Sylar has enslaved his soul. How much provocation do you need?’

‘In the case of declaring war, Nathan, I need more than your fevered imaginings.’

Nathan grips her arm and turns her around to face him. ‘Damn it, Ma, you know full well that Peter’s dead. The regent of Bharat damn well murdered him! He deserves to be avenged and to be properly buried.’

Angela coldly regards his hand until he pulls it from her arm. ‘Kindly refrain from lecturing me, Nathan.’

Nathan puts his hands on his hips. ‘If you won’t do it for Peter then do it for yourself.’

‘Oh? Would you care to elucidate?’ she says acidly.

‘If we don’t avenge Peter then we’re going to look weak. Every kingdom within a thousand leagues will see us as ripe for invasion.’

Angela looks away, back down at the drilling soldiers. ‘Really, Nathan, I expect better from you than a blatant attempt at emotional manipulation.’

‘I expect better from you than closing your eyes and pretending that this isn’t happening. Peter is dead, Ma. That reflection of his that you see in the mirror is nothing but a ghost screaming in the wind.’

A muscle jumps in her cheek. ‘Really, Nathan, is such melodrama completely necessary?’

‘When logic and reason fails.’

Angela squeezes the bridge of her nose. ‘And if you ride off with the army, then who will defend the castle?’

‘Two companies of men will be enough to defend the castle. I’ll collect more forces and mercenaries as we travel across the plains.’

Angela sighs and shakes her head. ‘The regent killed Peter, what makes you think he won’t kill you?’

‘I’m not Pete. I won’t be riding in there on a white charger waving guileless naiveté like a sword and shield. I’ll take men, cannon, horses, and whatever magical resources I can lay my hands on. This Sylar isn’t the only one who can cast a spell.’

Angela turns to him and fusses with the collar of his tunic. ‘Peter wouldn’t want you to die in some silly attempt to…’

‘Attempt to what, Ma?’ Nathan asks. ‘To get justice for my little brother? If the situations had been reversed then he would have been there already. Don’t I owe him the same?’

Angela sighs and pats Nathan’s chest. ‘Just be sure that the regent doesn’t survive. We don’t want the man coming back in five years with a mercenary army, and make sure you put the body on display somewhere public.’

‘You don’t think that’s a little provocative?’

‘Don’t be ridiculous, Nathan, you’re planning to invade the country. How much more provocative do you think you can be?’ She waves a hand. ‘We shall simply have to hope that the crown prince is still alive and of a sensible nature.’

Mohinder kneels down in front of the snarling, slavering wolf, and takes a deep breath.

‘Don’t be such a big baby. Come over here and let me clean that cut on your neck.’

Matt tries to back away, ears flat against his head, but comes up against the wall of the hovel.

‘Please, Matt, please let me clean your cut? Look, see, I’ll rub it on my skin first.’ Mohinder flinches at the bite of the ointment but then smiles. ‘It hurts a little bit but only for a moment. You’re not afraid of a little sting are you?’

Matt whines and crouches down low.

Mohinder crawls closer and lowers his voice. ‘Please, Matt. You’re far too brave to be afraid of this. Didn’t you just fight off a whole flock of ravens?’

Matt puts his head to one side and whines softly. Mohinder extends the hand that isn’t holding the ointment and Matt sniffs it cautiously, and then licks it. He rubs his face against Mohinder’s hand before dragging himself forward into Mohinder’s embrace.

‘I think you’re pretending not to be brave,’ Mohinder says, gently cleaning away clotted blood from the wound on the back of Matt’s neck. ‘I think you just want a cuddle.’

Matt growls a complaint and looks away.

‘How do you do that?’ Eden asks. She is lying on her bed, leaning over the end to watch Mohinder and Matt. ‘If I tried to “cuddle” a wolf I would end up being savaged to death and then eaten.’

‘I’m sure it would happen to me if I hadn’t known Matt known for… for a long time.’ Mohinder holds the fur out of the way and bites his lip as he dabs the cloth to the ragged cut in Matt’s skin.

Matt growls and snaps fruitlessly at Mohinder’s hand.

‘He could throw you off if he applied himself,’ Eden says mildly. ‘Wolves are exceptionally strong.’

‘Don’t give him ideas!’ Mohinder quickly finishes and whips his hands back forward Matt can bite them.

‘Wolves can’t understand language,’ Elle scoffs.

Matt briefly stops attempting to lick the ointment from his neck and yips at her.

‘He seems to feel differently,’ Eden remarks.

Adam climbs up onto the bed opposite them and crosses his legs. ‘He’s a smart one. Does he drink mead?’

Matt snorts and sits back on his haunches, looking at them expectantly. Adam hands the bottle over to Mohinder who pours himself a goblet of mead and saucer for Matt.

‘If you become merry I trust you won’t stagger about the place in an embarrassing fashion,’ Mohinder says seriously.

Matt ignores him and laps up the mead.

‘We’ve been thinking about your blood price,’ Adam announces.

Mohinder pauses with the goblet raised partway to his lips. He lowers it and taps his thumb on the edge of the goblet. ‘I don’t know what that means.’

‘You shed your blood in our cause,’ Bennet says heavily. ‘Even if it was Doyle’s corpse being attacked it was still our cause.’

‘That means that we owe you blood,’ Adam explains. ‘It doesn’t mean that we’ve drugged or poisoned the mead.’

Mohinder feels his cheeks colour although he knows that his concerns are valid. ‘What does owing me blood mean?’ he asks, sipping the mead. It’s sweet and a little heavy but warming and pleasant.

‘We owe you,’ Eden says. ‘Your battles will be our battles.’ She swings her feet over the edge of the bed. ‘You will always be welcome in our home and to share our food.’

‘Are you under compulsion to tell me? It seems that would be something best kept to yourselves.’

Matt yips and curls up next to Mohinder.

‘As a matter of fact, yes. We have to tell you,’ she says dryly.

‘If that’s all the questions for now I suggest that we eat dinner,’ Bennet announces. ‘We have to be up at daybreak or we’ll risk some other clan jumping our claim.’

Adam throws a pillow at Mohinder. ‘Doyle’s bed won’t fit. We’ll chop it up for firewood and have the woodcarver make one that’ll fit tomorrow.’

‘I haven’t said I’ll stay.’

‘What else will you do?’ Adam asks. ‘It’s going to be dark in a few hours and the wolves will be out.’

Mohinder scratches Matt’s head. ‘What do you think?’

Matt puts his head on Mohinder’s leg.

‘There is one thing,’ Mohinder says. ‘Are there any mirrors here? My… enemies can use mirrors and reflecting surfaces to find me.’

‘Ooh, magic enemies!’ Elle says cheerfully. ‘If they catch you will you be turned into a frog?’

‘If they catch me I’ll have my heart cut out.’

‘We have no mirrors,’ Bob says firmly. ‘Vanity is not a dwarvish concern.’

Mohinder is curled up on the floor on a pile of hay. He would be cold but Matt is sprawled out on top of him, generating more heat than he would’ve thought possible. It’s soothing, in an odd way. He can feel the rise and fall of Matt’s chest as he breathes.

‘We’ll get you human again,’ Mohinder promises. ‘As soon as I can.’

On the other side of the hovel, Elle sneaks outside as if visiting the outhouse. She sits in the cold moonlight and stares at her reflection in a small, speckled mirror.

End of Part 2



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December 2012

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